Tag Archives: Barack Obama

GOP Demands Tax Hike for Wage Earners

22 Aug

The Republican Party has shown its true colors. Even as it advocates strenuously against a modest rate hike on the richest Americans, it seeks to roll back a payroll tax cut that puts an extra $1,000 per year in the pocket of workers earning $50,000 (as an example).

I don’t know how it’s going to play out for them to self-identify with the wealthy and the ignorant, but it should make for a real barn-burner of a lowest common denominator, 18 month-long Presidential campaign.

Manufactured Crisis Averted

1 Aug

HT Marquil at EmpireWire.com.

Without analyzing a debt/deficit/spending/cuts deal that was cut just yesterday and I haven’t had an opportunity to review, I continually ask myself over these last several days why Washington is so willing to cut on the backs of the elderly, the poor, and the middle class, and why it so adamantly refuses to ask the very wealthy to pay, e.g., what they paid in income taxes back during the roaring 90s.

What will the tea party fad be replaced by, and when?

Local Proofers Believe Osama, not Obama

6 May

Ladies and Gentlemen, WNY’s most pre-eminent birther has now morphed into a bin Laden proofer:

It is my opinion that the Navy Seals did invade a compound in Pakistan a few nights ago and did, in fact, kill someone. That someone was most likely a person recruited by the CIA 10 years or more ago, around the time of the 9-11 attacks or prior to it when they knew they were going to be needing an enemy to vilify and a living one at that. It is my belief that this double was offered a large salary, possibly to be deposited in foreign banks of his choosing, a number of women to be his “wives”, and a compound to live in in Pakistan with his only duties being that he would stay within that compound for an undetermined period of time and pretend to be Bin Laden to all those he met and when asked to do so, including the women who would become his wives and the children he would produce with them. It is also my belief that the CIA and the US political establishment knew that they might someday need a moment like this but Bin Laden #2 really had no idea what ultimate purpose he would serve.

You should read the whole thing, because there are people who (a) believe this crap; and (b) aren’t institutionalized. (Past Coniglio posts available here). Osama bin Laden wasn’t important because the FBI poster doesn’t reference 9/11, because the Bush Administration de-prioritized his capture, and because, naturally, Obama is lying.  But Osama? He was telling the truth when he said he had nothing to do with 9/11 even though he’s repeatedly admitted his involvement over the past 10 years.

Osama and the use of “bin” as a homophone of “been”

2 May

Lucky for me I’m jet-lagged, so it’s not too off-putting getting up at 1:30 in the morning to hear the news that international bogeyman – our generation’s Carlos the Jackal – Osama bin Laden, has been eliminated in Abbottabad, Pakistan. One can only wish there was a Costellobad nearby.

Bin Laden has for some years been a largely ceremonial head of just about any grouping of disaffected Islamic youth who decide that extremist jihadism is a great way to rebel against society or their parents. His elimination is a day of celebration and remembrance, and I’m grateful not for what some commentators are referring to as “closure”, but instead for the sheer revenge factor. With bin Laden’s elimination, almost all of the people who planned the 9/11 attacks are either in custody or dead. That’s a fundamentally good thing, with credit going to both the Obama and Bush administrations.

Qaedatards pledge an oath of personal allegiance to bin Laden, and there’s really no one with his stature or charisma to replace him in that terrorist social network. Could al Qaeda be finished?

Since that fateful day in 2001, the United States has been fighting what has been termed a “war on terror”, but that’s an impossible war to wage. Terror is a feeling, not an army. Terrorism is something that has existed since time immemorial, whereby people or groups wage irregular attacks against military and civilian targets alike in order primarily to make people afraid, and secondarily to make some oft-facile point. Terrorism as a tactic is something that cannot be “defeated” in the traditional sense of fighting wars. It is something that needs to be monitored, infiltrated, prevented when possible, and punished when not. The best way to combat terror is to keep calm and carry on, and to remain vigilant against it.

In retrospect, I think, the biggest shock from 9/11 was how ineffective and sieve-like our security apparati were. We Americans have a short attention span, which means we tolerate window dressing (color-coded threat levels) over real effective change. We consolidated many agencies under the “homeland security” umbrella, and they’re supposed to be working together and sharing information.

I think bin Laden’s elimination, and the upcoming 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks should lead to some “closure” of a real sort. The money, effort, and attention we pay to fight three separate and distinct wars in Asia and Africa could be so much better spent on solving longstanding issues here at home. Reforming the tax code to make it more fair and simpler, ensuring that Americans have access to quality health care that doesn’t bankrupt them, and otherwise saving or redirecting trillions of dollars spent now on multiple quagmires.

What I’m trying to say in a roundabout way is that Osama’s death won’t end terrorism. No act or omission by our government or military can ever end terrorism, any more than a war on drugs will end drug use. It’s a largely symbolic milestone.

But what a symbolic milestone it is. The killing of a mass murderer is a great thing to celebrate. The upcoming days will reveal more details about this operation and we’ll consume them with glee and awe. But since we’re the last superpower, we’re a huge target – both collectively and individually. Extremists and murderers will continue to want to become infamous by killing us.

Live your life. Be happy. Do things. Travel. Read. Write. Draw. Paint. Buy. Make. Invent. Love. Discover. The best way to defeat terror is to be. And to not be afraid.

(Image courtesy of Marquil at EmpireWire.com)

Obama Trumps Trump at Correspondents Dinner

1 May

Last night at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, President Obama and guest speaker Seth Meyers took turns setting fire to any shred of credibility or respect that Donald Trump once held.  It was beautiful.

At the annual lighthearted celebration/roast of Washington Beltway media, President Obama came onstage to the dulcet tones of Hulk Hogan’s theme song, “I Am A Real American” accompanied by flashing images of Obama’s long form birth certificate.  He then took about 15 minutes to skewer the media, Fox News, NPR, Matt Damon, his love of teleprompters, Joe Biden and of course, The Donald.

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After the President finished, Seth Meyers (Head Writer of Saturday Night Live) came to the podium.  What happened was pure magic for those of us in sane America who think Trump is as credible as Carrot Top.  Seemingly, the only thing Trump can’t buy is respect.

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Enjoy

Jane Corwin and the Republican Budget

16 Apr

The Friday night news dump is especially reserved for embarrassing or harmful information. And for five solid days, Democratic candidate for NY-26 had been hectoring her Republican opponent, Jane Corwin, to reveal her stand regarding the Republicans’ 2012 budget proposal. Known widely for its chief proponent, Wisconsin Republican representative Paul Ryan, who is its chief proponent and chairman of congress’ budget committee, the Republican plan would further cut taxes on the wealthy, transform America’s popular and efficient Medicare single-payer plan for seniors and turn it into an insurance voucher program, and do other things that greatly benefit the wealthy and large corporate campaign donors so that the deficit might be eliminated by 2040.

Congress passed the Ryan budget with only 6 Republican defections or abstentions.  No Democrat voted for it.  The most repellent part of that legislation is the privatization of Medicare.  The entire reason why Medicare exists is that older people become less and less able to arrange their own affairs, need more medical attention more often, and are, frankly, a poor insurance risk. Indeed, private health insurers aren’t exactly happily anticipating an influx of millions of post-boomer seniors buying insurance with vouchers, the value of which will rise slower than the rate of health care itself.  Suddenly, older Americans, who are now largely free from concerns about who will pay for their health care costs, will have to start worrying about it again for the first time since 1964.  The CBO projects that seniors would be on the hook for 2/3 of their medical costs within 10 years of the plan’s implementation. Unless you’re a baby boomer. Then you can still keep the single-payer Medicare everyone loves.

And think of the mental gymnastics at issue here. What the Ryan budget actually does is replace a popular single-payer health care plan for seniors and replaces it with…Obamacare.

“It’s exactly like Obamacare,” said NRSC chairman Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) in the Capitol Thursday. “It is. It’s exactly like it. Which strikes me as bizarre that you’re seeing so much pushback [from Democrats].”

This is admirable candor — Cornyn was the only legislator I could find, Republican or Democrat, who would acknowledge this obvious truth. Indeed Cornyn didn’t even let me finish my question before excitedly volunteering that the House Republican budget would turn Medicare into a plan that mimics the key aspects of President Obama’s health care law.

What explains the irony? If you think of the health care system as a highway with unbridled free market private insurance on one end and universal single payer on the other end, then two parties are now approaching each other from opposite directions. Democrats pushed ObamaCare for working-aged people as a move away from unrestrained private insurance, toward a universal program. In trying to dismantle Medicare, Republicans are seeking to rollback a successful example of single payer toward freer market.

They’ve now awkwardly encountered each other in the middle. The similarities between the two policies creates a dilemma for Republicans who have smeared the health care law as an existential threat to the United States and for Democrats who’ve attacked the GOP plan as a corporate giveaway and dangerous for seniors.

So, WTF, right? “Obamacare” is socialism when proposed by the President, but great policy when proposed by the Republican House.

The GOP plan, as suggested above, would put future Medicare beneficiaries into an exchange — a pooled marketplace of private health insurance — and subsidize those policies with federal revenues. That’s the very same principle underlying “Obamacare.” But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Cornyn.

“Basically people who lose their employer-provided insurance, right, under Obamacare, go into the exchanges and then are provided with a taxpayer subsidy to help them buy private insurance,” he said. “That’s exactly what the premiums support plan that Paul Ryan is proposing.”

Correct! Yet Cornyn supports one and vilifies the other. “[ObamaCare] was 2,700 pages long, and I did oppose it for a multitude of reasons,” he said.

If you present members with the notion that the two plans are similar in anyway, you get obfuscation, or word salad, or both.

“I’m curious as to how,” said freshman Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI). “A lot of people believe that’s going to be a system that’s a little more similar to what we have as federal employees, too.”

“What we do, is what the President has called for and so many of our friends on the other side and that is, don’t you think that seniors ought to have the same kind of health coverage as Members of Congress?” said Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), chairman of the Republican Policy Committee. “The program we would put in place is one that essentially mirrors the federal employee health benefits program and a series of premium assistance for seniors who are not able to have the financial wherewithal.”

This is a common refrain from Republicans. One problem with it, though is that Obama’s health care reform law also provided uninsured people with benefits similar to those members of Congress have.

Well, it’s all very easy to understand.

In a way it’s no surprise that Republicans and Democrats have such similar approaches. The health care law is based on an old Republican policy idea — one they quickly abandoned when Barack Obama adopted it.

Ezra Klein notes that the Ryan proposal takes the burden of insuring seniors off the government, and places it squarely on the backs of seniors themselves.

The proposal would shift risk from the federal government to seniors themselves. The money seniors would get to buy their own policies would grow more slowly than their health-care costs, and more slowly than their expected Medicare benefits, which means that they’d need to either cut back on how comprehensive their insurance is or how much health-care they purchase. Exacerbating the situation — and this is important — Medicare currently pays providers less and works more efficiently than private insurers, so seniors trying to purchase a plan equivalent to Medicare would pay more for it on the private market.

It’s hard, given the constraints of our current debate, to call something “rationing” without being accused of slurring it. But this is rationing, and that’s not a slur. This is the government capping its payments and moderating their growth in such a way that many seniors will not get the care they need.

In an interesting twist, there was an even more radically Randian Republican budget being brought to a vote on the floor of the House before the Ryan budget.  It was so outrageous that even many Republicans thought it too draconian (read: politically harmful), so they figured the Democrats would defeat it for them. But instead, the Democrats all voted late, and then voted “present”, which doesn’t count as a vote.  Suddenly, the Republicans were scrambling as politically sensitive reps desperately tried to change their yeas to nays,

Republicans realized they were about to accidentally pass a plan that was too politically radioactive even to them. So they pressed several of their own members — including Reps. David Dreier (R-CA), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Buck McKeon (R-CA), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) — to switch their votes from yes to no. Indeed, when they realized what the Dems were up to, Republicans managed to flip just as many votes as they’d need to kill the RSC plan, even if every Democrat voted “present.” Only 15 Democrats declined to switch their votes from “no” to “present.” The plan failed by 16 votes.

“We got a lot of them to change, not every one of them to change,” Hoyer said. Those who didn’t, including several Blue Dogs wouldn’t budge. “There were a variety of reasons. I think some have tough races. Some said they’d never voted present. I was disappointed that they did not follow what I think was a strategy to highlight the position of the Republican Party.”

Kathy Hochul, who is vying for the Congressional seat most recently vacated by Chris Lee (R-Shirtless) came out against the Ryan budget proposal days ago. Her most recent press release from Friday reads:

DAY FIVE: CORWIN REMAINS ONLY CANDIDATE WHO REFUSES TO JOIN HOCHUL IN REJECTING REPUBLICAN BUDGET

The following is a statement from Fabien Levy, Director of Communications for Kathy Hochul for Congress:

“In just a few hours the House will vote on the Republican budget proposal that would end Medicare as we know it.  For days, Kathy Hochul, candidate for New York’s 26th Congressional District, has called on her opponents to join her in rejecting any budget that would add burdensome costs onto the backs of America’s seniors.  Today, there is only one candidate whose silence signals her intentions to break the promises made to our elderly population.

“Jane Corwin remains the only candidate in this race who has refused to tell the voters of the 26th District where she stands on the current budget proposal.  As the only Republican in the country currently running for Congress, she has repeatedly dodged every opportunity to take a position on the Republican’s 2012 budget.

“While her silence signals apathy, the truth may be even worse.  The people of the 26th want to know, if Jane Corwin was currently a Member of the House of Representatives, would she vote to slash benefits, increase costs, and hold America’s elderly population responsible for fighting with insurance companies?  Kathy Hochul has firmly stated her opposition to this proposal and promised to reject any budget that fundamentally alters Medicare.

“Assemblymember Corwin, before the vote is cast, tell the voters of the 26th District how you would vote today – would you reject the current budget proposal before the House or would you vote to decimate Medicare?”

Well, we all got our answer late Friday evening. Corwin emailed this to “Capital Tonight’s” Liz Benjamin:

“As a member of Congress, I would have voted both for this week’s plan to cut $38 billion and for the 2012 House budget resolution passed today because these bills are good initial steps in addressing America’s crippling deficit.”

“Our country is on the verge of bankruptcy, and our economy, our children’s future, and the security of our seniors are in jeopardy if we choose not to act. Now, it’s time that my opponents say exactly what they would do to address our nation’s burgeoning deficit.”

Well, no, the country isn’t on the “verge of bankruptcy”. But more starkly, there is nothing more repulsive and abhorrent to me than to see a small-time Republican political automaton who is a million-heiress living in the region’s most exclusive and expensive little neighborhood essentially telling everyone under 55 that there will be no Medicare for them.  All done, all gone. Of course, there’s no fiscal pain in the Corwin household, where they could literally bathe in dollar bills, but for regular folks, average non-multi-millionaire households, future seniors (that’s me) would grow old in some idiot voucher system where we’d be on the hook for 66% of our health care costs.  The social contract altered by millionaires on the backs – and to the detriment – of the poor and middle class. In other countries, people riot over that sort of mind-boggling arrogance.

Jane Corwin would not, however, change the Medicare single-payer plan for people currently over 55. I don’t know how that plays with the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution, and I thought the Congressional Republicans had decided that they’d include a statement of constitutionality with every bill.

In 2009, seniors came out in their thousands during the debate over Obama’s health care reform plan, and demandedloudly – and angrily that the government keep its socialist hands off their Medicare. One wonders how those same people will react to this Republican plan. Oh, they didn’t complain much at all? Because they’re exempt from it. But they were exempted from Obama’s plan, too.

The conversation we should be having in this country is how to make Medicare available to any American who wants to opt in. People could still by supplemental coverage on the open market, and others could choose to opt out. But the fact that we’re still having the same damned debate we had some 47 years ago about how – and whether – to provide universal health coverage is a massive and ongoing, embarrassing failure.

But we at least now know that Republican parrot Jane Corwin would like those of you without bread to go ahead and eat cake.

Deep Thoughts

4 Mar

I think that Mike Huckabee’s childhood experiences adversely affect his worldview.

(Seriously, it’s lightly coded hate speech like Huckabee’s that leads to horrific displays of ignorance like this. America is broken, in large part, because political “leaders” and ratings whores are quite content to gain political advantage by exploiting deep ignorance, fear, and hatred. That in itself should disqualify someone from not only public office, but any involvement in the civic discourse. I’m looking at you Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, the Mulleted Queef on WBEN, and Fox News).

President Obama’s Remarks At the Memorial Service for the Victims of the Tucson Massacre

12 Jan
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 8:  U.S. President Ba...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

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Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery At a Memorial Service for the Victims of the Shooting in Tucson, Arizona

University of Arizona, McKale Memorial Center
Tucson, Arizona

January 12, 2011 As Prepared for Delivery—

To the families of those we’ve lost; to all who called them friends; to the students of this university, the public servants gathered tonight, and the people of Tucson and Arizona:  I have come here tonight as an American who, like all Americans, kneels to pray with you today, and will stand by you tomorrow.

There is nothing I can say that will fill the sudden hole torn in your hearts.  But know this: the hopes of a nation are here tonight.  We mourn with you for the fallen.  We join you in your grief.  And we add our faith to yours that Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other living victims of this tragedy pull through.

As Scripture tells us:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy place where the Most High dwells.

God is within her, she will not fall;

God will help her at break of day.

On Saturday morning, Gabby, her staff, and many of her constituents gathered outside a supermarket to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and free speech.  They were fulfilling a central tenet of the democracy envisioned by our founders – representatives of the people answering to their constituents, so as to carry their concerns to our nation’s capital.  Gabby called it “Congress on Your Corner” – just an updated version of government of and by and for the people.

That is the quintessentially American scene that was shattered by a gunman’s bullets.  And the six people who lost their lives on Saturday – they too represented what is best in America.

Judge John Roll served our legal system for nearly 40 years.  A graduate of this university and its law school, Judge Roll was recommended for the federal bench by John McCain twenty years ago, appointed by President George H.W. Bush, and rose to become Arizona’s chief federal judge.  His colleagues described him as the hardest-working judge within the Ninth Circuit.  He was on his way back from attending Mass, as he did every day, when he decided to stop by and say hi to his Representative.  John is survived by his loving wife, Maureen, his three sons, and his five grandchildren.

George and Dorothy Morris – “Dot” to her friends – were high school sweethearts who got married and had two daughters.  They did everything together, traveling the open road in their RV, enjoying what their friends called a 50-year honeymoon.  Saturday morning, they went by the Safeway to hear what their Congresswoman had to say.  When gunfire rang out, George, a former Marine, instinctively tried to shield his wife.  Both were shot.  Dot passed away.

A New Jersey native, Phyllis Schneck retired to Tucson to beat the snow. But in the summer, she would return East, where her world revolved around her 3 children, 7 grandchildren, and 2 year-old great-granddaughter.  A gifted quilter, she’d often work under her favorite tree, or sometimes sew aprons with the logos of the Jets and the Giants to give out at the church where she volunteered.  A Republican, she took a liking to Gabby, and wanted to get to know her better.

Dorwan and Mavy Stoddard grew up in Tucson together – about seventy years ago. They moved apart and started their own respective families, but after both were widowed they found their way back here, to, as one of Mavy’s daughters put it, “be boyfriend and girlfriend again.” When they weren’t out on the road in their motor home, you could find them just up the road, helping folks in need at the Mountain Avenue Church of Christ.  A retired construction worker, Dorwan spent his spare time fixing up the church along with their dog, Tux.  His final act of selflessness was to dive on top of his wife, sacrificing his life for hers.

Everything Gabe Zimmerman did, he did with passion – but his true passion was people.  As Gabby’s outreach director, he made the cares of thousands of her constituents his own, seeing to it that seniors got the Medicare benefits they had earned, that veterans got the medals and care they deserved, that government was working for ordinary folks.  He died doing what he loved – talking with people and seeing how he could help.  Gabe is survived by his parents, Ross and Emily, his brother, Ben, and his fiancée, Kelly, who he planned to marry next year.

And then there is nine year-old Christina Taylor Green.  Christina was an A student, a dancer, a gymnast, and a swimmer.  She often proclaimed that she wanted to be the first woman to play in the major leagues, and as the only girl on her Little League team, no one put it past her.  She showed an appreciation for life uncommon for a girl her age, and would remind her mother, “We are so blessed.  We have the best life.”  And she’d pay those blessings back by participating in a charity that helped children who were less fortunate.

Our hearts are broken by their sudden passing.  Our hearts are broken – and yet, our hearts also have reason for fullness.

Our hearts are full of hope and thanks for the 13 Americans who survived the shooting, including the congresswoman many of them went to see on Saturday.  I have just come from the University Medical Center, just a mile from here, where our friend Gabby courageously fights to recover even as we speak.  And I can tell you this – she knows we’re here and she knows we love her and she knows that we will be rooting for her throughout what will be a difficult journey.

And our hearts are full of gratitude for those who saved others.  We are grateful for Daniel Hernandez, a volunteer in Gabby’s office who ran through the chaos to minister to his boss, tending to her wounds to keep her alive.  We are grateful for the men who tackled the gunman as he stopped to reload.  We are grateful for a petite 61 year-old, Patricia Maisch, who wrestled away the killer’s ammunition, undoubtedly saving some lives.  And we are grateful for the doctors and nurses and emergency medics who worked wonders to heal those who’d been hurt.

These men and women remind us that heroism is found not only on the fields of battle.  They remind us that heroism does not require special training or physical strength.  Heroism is here, all around us, in the hearts of so many of our fellow citizens, just waiting to be summoned – as it was on Saturday morning.

Their actions, their selflessness, also pose a challenge to each of us.  It raises the question of what, beyond the prayers and expressions of concern, is required of us going forward.  How can we honor the fallen?  How can we be true to their memory?

You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations – to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless.  Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems.  Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding.  In the words of Job, “when I looked for light, then came darkness.”  Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack.  None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.

So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy.  We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.

But what we can’t do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another.  As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility.  Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose someone in our family – especially if the loss is unexpected.  We’re shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward.  We reflect on the past.   Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder.  Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us?  Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in awhile but every single day?

So sudden loss causes us to look backward – but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us.  We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives.  Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order.  We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.

That process of reflection, of making sure we align our values with our actions – that, I believe, is what a tragedy like this requires.  For those who were harmed, those who were killed – they are part of our family, an American family 300 million strong.  We may not have known them personally, but we surely see ourselves in them.  In George and Dot, in Dorwan and Mavy, we sense the abiding love we have for our own husbands, our own wives, our own life partners.  Phyllis – she’s our mom or grandma; Gabe our brother or son.  In Judge Roll, we recognize not only a man who prized his family and doing his job well, but also a man who embodied America’s fidelity to the law.  In Gabby, we see a reflection of our public spiritedness, that desire to participate in that sometimes frustrating, sometimes contentious, but always necessary and never-ending process to form a more perfect union.

And in Christina…in Christina we see all of our children.  So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic.

So deserving of our love.

And so deserving of our good example.  If this tragedy prompts reflection and debate, as it should, let’s make sure it’s worthy of those we have lost.  Let’s make sure it’s not on the usual plane of politics and point scoring and pettiness that drifts away with the next news cycle.

The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives – to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents.  And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let’s remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud.  It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other’s ideas without questioning each other’s love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.

I believe we can be better.  Those who died here, those who saved lives here – they help me believe.  We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us.  I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.

That’s what I believe, in part because that’s what a child like Christina Taylor Green believed.  Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future.  She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful.  She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model.  She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

I want us to live up to her expectations.  I want our democracy to be as good as she imagined it.  All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.

Christina was given to us on September 11th, 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called “Faces of Hope.”  On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child’s life.  “I hope you help those in need,” read one.  “I hope you know all of the words to the National Anthem and sing it with your hand over your heart.  I hope you jump in rain puddles.”

If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today.  And here on Earth, we place our hands over our hearts, and commit ourselves as Americans to forging a country that is forever worthy of her gentle, happy spirit.

May God bless and keep those we’ve lost in restful and eternal peace.  May He love and watch over the survivors.  And may He bless the United States of America.

The Land of Make-Believe

12 Jan

While explaining how bad it is to “politicize” the attempted assassination of a politician by a madman with odd political views, the right wing has further politicized it by trying to create a “Loughner was a leftist” meme.  Have it both ways, you can’t.

With that said, one would have hoped that a bullet going through the skull of a congresswoman targeted by a hit list may have given people pause and contributed to a soul-searching about violent rhetoric that’s been quite popular on the right, especially in the last year.

No such luck.

Instead, the right has denied, denied, denied that (a) its rhetoric was in any way overheated;  (b) that overheated, violent rhetoric is perfectly ok; and (c) the left is as bad if not worse.  Oh, well.  We all know that this right here is absolutely what happened on Sunday.  Attempts at equivalency have been uniformly lame and unpersuasive, pointing to apologized-for Olbermannian metaphors, or Obama quoting from the Untouchables (ignoring the fact that, in that particular instance, the other side would have already come armed with knives).

Since it’s clear that the right wing absolutely refuses to accept any blame for anything, ever, here are some handy tips provided by Josh Marshall for what ought to be generally acceptable political behavior.  Conservatives are welcome to ignore them, I suppose, since there’s nothing wrong with any of it, or because the left-did-it-too-but-there’s-really-no-proof-of-that.

1. Refrain from telling supporters that winning the election may require active exercise of their “second amendment” rights.

2. Refrain from suggesting it’s time for “armed revolution”, even if Thomas Jefferson once kinda sorta suggested that.

3. Refrain from holding political fundraisers focused around use of automatic weapons, especially target practices with initials, name or images of your political opponent.

4. Refrain from telling supporters you want them to be “armed and dangerous.”

5. Refrain from making campaign posters with opponent’s head in gun sights.

6. Refrain from saying that bullets will work if ballots don’t.

7. Suggest that supporters not bring weapons to opponents’ political rallies.

All seven of those examples are genuine things that happened in 2010.  There was no problem whatsoever in 2010.  The Republicans are going all Barbrady on everyone’s ass.

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Say what you will about the Buffalo News, but its editorial yesterday was exactly on target.

…with the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham and Fox News taking up the cudgel. Today, no slander is too vile, no lie too pernicious to be leveled as conservatives, in and out of government, thrash at President Obama and his agenda. Coulter calls Democrats treasonous. Sarah Palin says the health reform law creates “death panels.” Her website put cross hairs on the districts of elected officials she was targeting for defeat. One was Giffords’.

It happens in New York, too. Last year’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, Carl Paladino, repeatedly charged over the line in criticizing his opponent Andrew M. Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and even former Republican Gov. George E. Pataki.

Against that onslaught, the liberal insults of Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow seem almost benign, though some on the left have this in common with their right-wing adversaries: They, too, have a stake in casting issues as black and white, driving the sides further apart and making compromise ever more difficult. Why didn’t Republicans work to improve last year’s health care reform bill instead of working to subvert it? Because in the current climate there is no percentage in making government work.

There’s a lot of sowing, but not enough reaping.  I sure wish that the Republican mainstream would stop egging dummies on with rhetoric that basically equates Obama and the Democrats with SatanHitlerMao, but they won’t because it helps shore up the whackjob vote they apparently so desperately need.  I sure wish that the Republican mainstream would stop fetishizing guns in conjunction with their “the other side is a bunch of death-panel-making commienazi” rhetoric, but to do so might mean that they’d have to participate in a government with Democratic majorities.

Let’s just put it this way – it’d be swell if no more lawmakers were shot through the head.  Have a great day!

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Palinism – Folksy Fascism for the 21st Century

9 Jan
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The face of 21st Century American Fascism

Chris does a wonderful job outlining the violent rhetoric that’s emanated from the angry right over the past couple of years, featuring such stars as Sharron Angle, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and other bright lights among the tea party vanguard.

He titles his post “Inciting a Revolution”.  I disagree with the “Revolution” part, mostly because there’s no coherent or cohesive vision of a new America that these people represent.  They don’t seek a revolution that would somehow change the fundamentals of American representative democracy.  To the contrary, they claim to be the proudest and strongest adherents to its constitutional constructs.  Right down to the reading.

What they’re doing with their nihilist, eliminationist, violent rhetoric is inciting a riot, nothing more.  When Sarah Palin posts Gabrielle Giffords’ name with a gunsight over a map of her congressional district, that’s the same as yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater.  When Palin urges her minions to not “retreat” but “reload”, she’s deliberately and knowingly inciting violence.  Not just any violence – but the kind that murders people.  When you take all of the rhetoric together, from all relevant sources, it’s become evident that the American right wing has become infested with the same dirty bloodlust that led a Niagara County militia follower to blow up the Murrah Federal Building, and the men, women, and children within.

Yesterday, not only did the shooter injure a Congresswoman, but he murdered six people, among them a federal Judge and a nine year-old little girl.  Maybe the 2nd Amendment ought not apply to idiot paranoid schizophrenics.

I watched the alleged shooter’s YouTube videos and he’s not much different from any other semi-literate, uninformed, dumb, mentally ill mass murderers you’d come across in any given day.  We knew anyone who would commit mass murder would be a psychotic.

But that’s the point.  The greater issue is how a certain brand of domestic fascism has made it socially acceptable within that circle to joke about or incite violence against political opponents, and how that might play in an unhinged mind.

Palinism, which is what I’ve come to call the Tea Party movement, is food for the weak-minded.  Her brand of facile exclusionary bully politics, mixed in with clumsy jingoism, virulent hatred, calls to arms, and  deliberate ignorance is little more than a 21st century fascism.  After all, fascism is a hypernationalistic, ignorant, violent, eliminationist, political philosophy that relies on hatred.

When congresspeople can’t hold supermarket meet ‘n greets with constituents without tight security, the very foundation of our representative democracy has been rocked.  That this threat is a domestic one makes it all the more curious.

After all, the Palinists would have you believe that endless war is so totally necessary to protect our motherland fatherland homeland.  Yet the biggest risk the homeland faces is from the Palinist fascists themselves.

For fascism to grow, it needs a mortal enemy.  In Italy, it was the foreigners, democrats, and socialists who helped bring about perceived post-WWI slights preventing it from becoming a great power.  In Germany, it was the Versailles “Diktat”, which the Nazis blamed on foreign democracies and “international Jewry”.  For the Palinist fascists, it’s Obama and American Democrats for plunging America into Soviet-style communism by passing health care reform and suggesting cap & trade.

Here, the spark that lit the fire of Palinist fascism was the election of Barack Obama.  Although he’s as corporate-friendly a centrist Democrat as you’re likely ever to find, because of his name, his family history, his past employment, and his race, the Palinists have beat a drum for quite literally two + years that Obama is some sort of Muslim, foreign, Kenyan, unAmerican, Marxist, Communist usurper.  Although he legitimately won a fair and free election in 2008, they seek to delegitimize him through lies that play to people’s fears and rank prejudices.

You know, when liberals complained about George W. Bush’s legitimacy, people forget that there was a Supreme Court case fought over that very issue.  The claim, as they say, was colorable.  Here, no such factual basis exists.

Even though a solid majority of Americans voted for Barack Obama and, in turn, the policies he proposed, the Palinists claimed – shouted – that his perfectly reasonable policy proposals were tantamount to an abolition of the American experiment altogether.  We’d be subsumed by the United Nations or  the New World Order or whatever the bogeyman-du-jour might be, and America would become some sort of big, huge Cuba.

The rhetoric turned especially ugly when the Democrats passed a health care reform program that gave consumers more rights and failed to fundamentally change the status quo.  Note the date of the Palin tweet above.  Then note the date of this story.  Those Palinist fascist calls for a blood orgy were made the day after the heath care reform bill was passed.

When fascists complain falsely, but loudly enough about the legitimacy, policies, and danger to the republic the President and his party represent – bad things are bound to happen.

And then, when those bad things happen, they whine and cry about how both sides need to tamp down the rhetoric.

Well, no

Both sides don’t need to tamp down the rhetoric.  One side is guilty of maintaining or giving express or implied support and approval of eliminationist, hateful, violent, dehumanization of its opponents. The American right wing has become radicalized beyond recognition – its rhetoric and lies, and its calls to violence go far beyond what is acceptable in a western pluralist democratic republic.  Its behavior is ignorant fascism, and it’s time we called it that.  It’s also time that the opponents of that Palinist virus become more effective at rhetorically politically defeating it.

Luckily, America is better than Palinist fascism – a militant, violent, uninformed, ignorant, hateful and un-Democratic bucket of incitement.